There Are Inkspots On My Page!

My name is Belle and I like to read books. One day in the near future, I will add "editor" and "proofreader" to "reader". 


I am a 2015 Aurealis Awards judge, [deity of choice] help us all. Please note that any opinions found here are my own.


You can also find me on twitter, tumblr and goodreads

The Gift of Charms (The Land of Dragor)

The Gift of Charms (The Land of Dragor) - Julia Suzuki You can read this review and others on my blog. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I received a teaser copy of The Gift of Charms, consisting of the first 3 chapters. This is the first book in the Land of Dragor series, and follows Yoshiko as he begins dragon school.

I know this is a children’s story and probably not best suited to my tastes, but I couldn’t quite get into it. It has a rather interesting plot, but I didn’t feel any connection to the characters, the pacing felt a bit off, and if I’m being absolutely honest, the writing style reminded me of a short story I wrote in high school (I’ve yet to decide whether this is good or bad!).

I found that the story was a bit rushed, especially once Yoshiko reaches school and finds himself face to face with a bully. The escalation from initial meeting to hatred was quite rapid, and seemed a little out of proportion.

If I had a copy of the whole book, I don’t doubt I would read the whole thing, but based on what I have read, I’m not in a hurry to finish it, or read the rest of the series. If you know someone in the 8-12 age range, they might enjoy it, but there are plenty of other books I’d recommend over this one.

Tournament of Hearts (The Librarian Gladiator, #1)

Tournament of Hearts (The Librarian Gladiator, #1) - Dustin Bilyk You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was a really interesting story, with its two main arcs woven together well.

First up, we have the tournament itself: an annual event that pits 4 “gladiators” against each other, very much in a “winner takes all format”, as the loser has their entire bloodline wiped out.

And then we have Hamelin’s past catching up with it. Many, many years ago, an unnamed event caused Hamelin’s founders to remove themselves from their world and set up in the valley they now call home. But they can’t remain apart forever, and the outside world is beginning to creep in.

Firmly in the middle of these is Neven, who not only has to contend with fighting in the Tournament, but also content with the flying beasts that seem to have targetted him.

I did enjoy the story and the characters for the most part. The purpose of the tournament is definitely unique, and I’m very curious to learn more about Hamelin’s past, especially as despite the profound impact it has had on how the town runs, and despite histories being kept as far back as the town has existed, no one seems to have a clue that there is a world outside the valley - almost everyone is bizarrely content to continue just as they always have.

I did find it a bit of a struggle to connect with any of the characters though, and some areas were a bit too bogged down in details. There’s so much going on in the book! A run through by an editor will easily fix those issues though, and they don’t detract from the overall story too much.

When it’s all said and done though, this is definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys their fantasy with an action-packed, dystopian edge.

The Very Best of Kate Elliott

The Very Best of Kate Elliott - Kate Elliott I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

I first encountered Kate Elliott's work as a wee pup, when her Crown of Stars series was being written. They were a huge part of my first foray into "grown up fantasy", and I loved every book. So, you can imagine how excited I was to see this book being released, especially as it had been quite some time since I'd read any of her work.

The Very Best of Kate Elliott is a collection of short stories and a couple of essays. Some of the stories are set in the same worlds as her other series, others are completely separate. All are brilliant, and I found the essays to be really interesting.

One of my favourite things about her work has always been the variety in her characters - especially the female ones. They so often form the core of her stories, and as much as it shouldn't be a remarkable thing, it is. It's really nice to pick up a book and find women that aren't there just to pad out the story for the men, and to find a main character that I can truly relate to. The range of women in this collection is just brilliant, and the exploration of the various forms their strength and bravery can take is fantastic.

It's hard to pick a favourite, I really enjoyed each story. If I had to choose a standout though, it would be The Gates of Jorium. This one really tugged my heartstrings, and I couldn't help but cheer aloud when I reached the end.

Finally, the essays. There are three, and it was The Omniscient Breast that I enjoyed the most - while I was aware of the difference between the male and female gazes, the way each is used, and the narrative choices made by writers (both male and female) were things I hadn't stopped to think about, and that is definitely something that will be changing from now on.

Basically, this book is a great introduction for new readers wanting to know more about Kate's work before committing to a whole series, a delightful read for older fans wanting to reminisce, and anyone who likes their women badass and their fantasy epic.

Owl and the Japanese Circus

Owl and the Japanese Circus - Kristi Charish You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoy urban fantasy. It always makes a nice, and usually light, change from the epic fantasies I usually prefer. I never quite seem to enjoy it as much though, and despite being a very good read, Owl and the Japanese Circus doesn’t really do it for me.

I liked the premise - Owl is an ex-archaeology student who found herself on the wrong side of a professor, and now makes her living well and truly outside academia. Everything inevitably goes pear-shaped, and she needs to find a way to save the day.

The pacing of the story is - I can only assume - meant to be action packed, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat right until the end. It’s something that Jim Butcher and Matthew Reilly do incredibly well. This does not reach the same level though. Many parts felt rushed, and for at least the first half of the book, I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to care about Owl or her predicament(s).

Much of that is probably to do with the fact that I’m not a fan of Owl herself. More than once, I found myself rolling my eyes at her thoughts and behaviour. She comes across as whiny, and there’s a trend of not taking responsibility for the situations she finds herself in.

Highlight of the book for me was Captain, Owl’s vampire-obsessed cat. He was a thorough delight throughout the whole book and I’ll keep reading the series just for his antics.

Overall, it was a good book, and I’m far from hating it. I just look forward to less whining and more character growth from Owl.

Gears of Brass Anthology

Gears of Brass Anthology - Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, Eliza Tilton, Heather Talty, Susan Kaye Quinn, Clare Weze, Christine Baker, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, Natalia Darcy, Grant Eagar, S.A. Larsen, J. Million, W. K. Pomeroy I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

I have been searching for great steampunk for a long time now, so I was very excited to come across this anthology, wherein eleven different authors give us their steam-powered versions of fairy tales.

I really enjoyed the basic plot of several of the stories, especially A Clockwork Dollhouse, Clockwork Wolf and The Key Girl.

That’s about where I run out of positive things to say. Almost every story ends very abruptly with little to no resolution. The first couple of times this happened, I wrote it off as word count constraints. By the end of the book, I was rather frustrated. In many of the stories, it didn’t even feel like it was halfway through before it was all over.

The Key Girl was a notable exception to this - the main premise of its section was resolved, but ended in such a way as to not be much of an ending. If Grant Eagar isn’t fleshing this out into a full novel, I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

I was very surprised to see the amount of grammar and spelling errors found throughout the book, especially in the last few stories. I’m far from perfect, but I firmly believe that this book is in desperate need of a new editor. Seeing a character “chocked” and losing “conscience” is a bit much.

Ultimately, it was a very disappointing read, and I will continue my hunt for great steampunkery elsewhere.

I Was Here

I Was Here - Gayle Forman I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

I have a confession. I had no idea what this book was about before agreeing to review it, all I knew was that Gayle Forman was doing great things, and that I hadn’t read any of her work yet. I was quite startled to find that it’s primarily about the aftermath of suicide, but I put my big girl pants on and charged in anyway.

And I am so glad that I did.

This book isn’t about suicide, not really. Yes, a character’s death is a central part to the story, and there’s a lot of time discussing the how’s and why’s of it happening, but it’s about so much more than that. Really, it’s about family, friendship and inner strength. It’s about discovering that there’s more to other people - both good and bad - if you look past the surface.

Writing about suicide and depression in any form is going to be a touchy subject, but it’s handled very well in this case. A lot of time is spent on the “how”, and there’s quite a bit of introspection and “what if”, but there’s no glorification.

I found Cody to be really interesting, even if I do think she made some questionable decisions. I enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story, and seeing how her relationship with her mother develop was really well done.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance aspect, it did seem a bit cliched and inevitable, but as that seems to be a given with just about every YA/NA novel, it’s something I’m just going to have to live with.

All in all, this was a great book and I do recommend it - just be aware of your own triggers around suicide, depression and mental health.


Nightingale - Fiona McIntosh You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

I’ve been a fan of Fiona McIntosh since she was writing fantasy, so the chance to review Nightingale was very exciting, despite it being a bit out of my comfort zone.

Nightingale follows Claire Nightingale and Jamie Wren through WWI - from landing at Gallipoli where they first meet, to Egypt and the Western Front, and even some time in Istanbul after WWI as they both cling to a promise to meet again after the war.

While it’s ultimately a historical romance novel (not my fave), it’s also a brilliant insight into the things people can survive and the strength needed to get through such an overwhelming experience.

I adored Claire and Jamie right from the beginning. They’re both so warm and full of life, it’s impossible to not want the world for them. I also really liked the supporting cast, especially Eugenie Lester, who is an absolutely delightful older lady and I’m so happy she got to play as large a part as she did.

Even if you don’t usually enjoy romantic novels, this book is a must for anyone who enjoys history and brilliant storytelling.

The Fifth Gospel: A Novel

The Fifth Gospel: A Novel - Ian Caldwell You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a sucker for anything that smacks of “history” and “crime”, and this one has plenty of both.

When the Vatican police are unable to find the person who broke into Father Alex’s house, or who murdered his friend, he decides to do a little investigating of his own, and falls headlong into a centuries old mystery relating to the fifth gospel, known as the Diatessaron.

I enjoyed this book a lot more once the initial set up was over with. Once it got into the meat of the story - following the history of the Diatessaron and the Shroud of Turin, it became much more interesting. My knowledge of church history is shaky at best, so I really couldn’t say how much is rooted in history and how much was created by the story, but I don’t think it really matters. Enough history is included for the story to make sense, making it accessible for everyone regardless of their background.

Despite all the different plots in the story - the murder and break in, the Diatessaron, marriage break down, brotherly love - there’s nothing overwhelming or difficult to follow. It’s simply a well paced, well written, churchy mystery. For those that want to compare it to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code: go wash your mouth out! Brown doesn’t come close to Ian Caldwell in any way, shape or form.

The Sunken

The Sunken - S.C. Green I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

The Sunken is a delightful exploration of an alternative Georgian England - one where industry is god, dragons still exist, and something is lurking in the palace.

I really enjoyed this portrayal of steampunky England - a place where industry isn’t just a feature, but the new religion with different sects following different Industrian gods. There’s a lot going on in this book - each of the main characters has a complex backstory of their own slowly trickled through the book, and there are several important elements woven into the main plot. It was a pleasant surprise to find that this doesn’t make it difficult to keep track of what’s going on, I found that the pacing of various reveals and flashbacks fit perfectly with the “present” and enhanced the story well.

I found all of the characters quite interesting and well-written, and I liked that while the majority of the main characters are given their own POV, the one character whose thoughts and opinions are often the most relevant, is notably absent. Instead, we see him from everyone else’s angle, and the difference in their opinions about his personality and motives are fascinating. The chance to make up your own mind as the novel progresses isn’t something you get to see all that often.

I’m really curious to see where book 2 will take the story, as the majority of the story is wound up neatly by the end of the book, leaving only a tiny thread to move forward with. That said, I’ve no doubts it will be just as good as this one. This book is absolutely worth a read.

Fatal Puzzle

Fatal Puzzle - Catherine  Shepherd, Julia Knobloch I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

It took me a long time to write this review, not because I didn’t enjoy the book, but because I found it difficult to get my thoughts in order.

Fatal Puzzle is actually two intertwined stories - one half is set in 1495, where women are being murdered and mutilated to complete a puzzle, and the other takes us to the present day, where there appears to be someone copying the medieval murderer.

I really enjoyed both stories, they were engaging and entertaining from start to finish, and there wasn’t a lot of mucking around with unnecessary side plots - the book isn’t even 200 pages long.

I did find the writing style a bit jarring. It reminded me very much of a young adult novel, which is definitely not a bad thing. I did find it quite jarring in some sections though, where victims and scenes were described in quite graphic detail.

I also would have enjoyed both stories fleshed out into their own individual pieces, as they were both very interesting separately, but the length of the book means that everything is shorter by necessity.

That said, this appears to be book 1 in a series, and I’m very interested in seeing what Catherine Shepherd does next.

The Fell Sword

The Fell Sword - Miles  Cameron The Fell Sword picks up where The Red Knight finishes, with the Captain leading his men on to their next job. It was just as good a read as The Red Knight - where The Red Knight was non-stop drama and action, The Fell Sword has a bit more character development and world building.

I really liked being able to see more of what was happening in other places, especially in the Wild, and being able to see another kingdom described really enhanced the world building - it stopped being a place mentioned in passing and became a real thing. Having a wider range of characters telling their parts was great for me - there were quite a few new faces to get to know and I'm quite fond of most of them.

There was also a lot of time spent laying the foundations for the next book - the Fell Sword of the title barely rates a mention in this book, and I'm quite looking forward to seeing how it all pans out, especially in relation to Duchess Ghause's role, and newcomer Morgan. I still love how magic, religion and "reality" are mixed in this series, and how it's all being used in a war setting. It's perhaps one of the best uses of magic that I've seen in quite some time.

If you enjoyed The Red Knight, and don't mind taking a slower trip through this book, you're going to really enjoy it. If you haven't read either yet, grab The Red Knight and settle in for a long and wonderful ride.

You can read this, and other reviews on my blog.

The Great Zoo of China

The Great Zoo of China - Matthew Reilly You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Reilly’s work for quite some time, ever since a friend introduced me to Ice Station. One of my favourite things is the speed the story moves at, and how unbelievably-believable everything is.

The Great Zoo of China is no exception - it’s an action packed beast, and I loved the contents of the zoo. Having a female protagonist was simply fantastic, and my patchy memory tells me it’s the first time he’s done this - but I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

I’m quite a fan of how he continually works in fantastic elements in a way that’s completely believable and it’s a testament to the time and effort he spends on researching each of his books.

While this isn’t one of my favourites of his, it’s definitely just as high quality as the rest of his work, and absolutely worth a read.

City of Dragons

City of Dragons - Robin Hobb City of Dragons not only continues the journey to Kelsingra, but shows us quite a few things referenced in the first couple of books.

I enjoyed this one a little better than Dragon Haven and while it's still not quite at the level of previous series, it's a lot more interesting than the previous book. I loved the inclusion of Tintaglia, and seeing more of what's happening outside of the river and Kelsingra - particularly with Chalced and Bingtown.

It was fantastic seeing Malta and Reyn again too, and while we don't get to watch them grow as such, seeing their character growth through their actions in this book was great.

The book does end quite abruptly, that was a bit frustrating, but I've no doubt that the final book will wrap everything up nicely, and I enjoyed being able to see the different arcs develop.

The only thing I found jarring was Alise - her behaviour towards the other keepers with regard to Kelsingra being looted felt quite out of character. She went from being excited about exploring, to panicking that the city would be looted before she could document everything, but there was nothing in any other part of the book to suggest it was more than an irrational fear. We know from previous books (the Liveship Traders series in particular) that the Rain Wilders excavate and sell Elderling treasures, but the sudden change in behaviour did throw me off a bit.

It's still a very solid novel though, and I can't wait to see how it all ends.

You can read this review, and others, on my blog.

The Brewer's Tale

The Brewer's Tale - Karen  Brooks What a book. I often find with historical fiction that it's either a poorly disguised romance novel set however long ago, an unrealistic rendition of the era or a bad ass depiction of life in that era. The Brewer's Tale is absolutely the latter.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale.

This book is set in an era when women were property of their men-folk, so a young unmarried woman setting up her own business, and doing incredibly well at it, is enough to turn everything on its ear. Karen Brooks has done a fantastic job of creating a strong, beautifully balanced female character that manages to do everything she needs to, overcome every obstacle, without leaving the bounds of what one could realistically expect to be achieved in that era.

Anneke Sheldrake is a wonderful character - she's far from perfect, but that's what makes her so appealing. The struggles she faces are as understandable now as they would have been then, even if the actual situations vary slightly. I can't remember the last time there was a good ducking in the river, for example, but the bias and prejudice leading up to that is just as alive today.

I also appreciated the way the romance was woven through the book - I'm not a huge fan of romance novels, or ones that rely on romance too heavily to move everything forward, but this had the perfect balance the entire way through.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in history, and enjoys adventure, mystery, and a damn good story.

You can read this, and other reviews on my blog.
I received a copy of this book as part of Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Life in Outer Space

Life in Outer Space - Melissa Keil You can find this, and other reviews, on my blog.

This book. I’m not even sure where to start.

Life in Outer Space isn’t just a young adult novel about the Geeky Guy that falls in love with the Cool Girl. It’s about friendship and navigating high school and growing up and relationships and it’s all packaged in a very funny, very brilliant book.

I found the whole thing really relatable, even though I’m not a teenage boy. A lot of the things Sam is dealing with - being the “uncool” kid, working out how boy-girl relationships work (as friends and more), parents being weird around each other - is just so believable from beginning to end. We’ve all been there, we’ve all wondered if we’re ever going to be one of the popular people, or if our parents are slowly losing the plot.

On top of all that, Sam isn’t just a geek, he’s a believable geek. The whole book is peppered with movie/book/gaming quotes and references, and none of it feels forced or thrown in to earn points.

We don’t get to see much of Sam’s friends outside of his perceptions of them, but we do still get a great picture of who they are and how they’re reacting to everything going on.

There was nothing that I don’t love about this book, apart from the fact that it can’t go on forever. As with Cinnamon Girl, it’s a perfect snapshot of common situations faced by everyone, whether they’re currently in high school or reminiscing about their own awkward teenage years.

The Silent Deal

The Silent Deal - Levi Stack I received a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. You can find it, and my other reviews here.

I quite enjoyed this book. Set in 1830s Russia, it's a wonderful mix of fantasy, folklore and adventure. The whole book was compelling from beginning to end, and I'm curious to see where the rest of the series goes.

The "silent deal" referenced in the title was very interested, and the way that it was revealed throughout the book was done very well - just when you thought you had a handle on it, a new piece of information was revealed.

The main characters are all quite likeable, but it's the Romani that really stand out for me, despite not getting much attention until late in the book. I'm hoping there will be a lot more of them in the future.

I really liked the way the folklore and the fantasy elements were woven in, there was nothing overly unrealistic about any of it, and that's a pleasant change. I was really looking forward to seeing how the cards were involved in the story, as they played such a key part in setting the mystery up. The explanation for their existence was quite disappointing however - I expected them to play a much larger part considering some of the situations described and the fact that the series is called The Card Game.

I really liked the writing style throughout - it's wonderfully paced and written in such a way to appeal to a broad range of ages. I'm very interested to see how book two plays out, and where it will all go from here.

Currently reading

Church Of Marvels by Leslie Parry
Unrelenting Nightmare by Stan Yocum
Lewis Carroll: The Man and his Circle by Edward Wakeling
The Path to Power: Book One of the Tarnished Crown by Karen Miller
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks